Top 10 Polymaths in Islamicate History

Mohammed Hijab


Channel: Mohammed Hijab

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Assalamualaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh how are you guys doing?

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A lot of people have been asking me to do reading lists different kinds of reading lists for recommended reading. And one day I might actually write a reading list and put on my website,

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Mohammed hijab.co.uk.

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But today, what I wanted to do with you guys is actually take you through 10, Islamic eight polymaths that I think you should know about, and I'm putting them in ranking order.

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And why have I phrased it in this way 10 Islamic a polymath is because Islamic A is a area where Islamic rule was dominant.

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And sometimes can refer to the caliphate like for example, there are made rule or that are best rule etc.

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And so when I say Islamic, a polymath, it doesn't necessarily mean that the people that are being referenced must be Muslims, I mean, or Arabs or anything like that. It just means that they were living under that particular rule, the Islamic rule. And I mentioned in these 10 names, because I do think that they are the polymath that you should know about.

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Now, when I say polymath, I'm talking about someone who has a specialism in more than one discipline of study, and has actually had an influence in that academic discipline.

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And so this is different to saying, for example, that you are the most influential person or the 10 most influential people, culturally, society politically or economically, that's a different thing. And so for this reason, I'm going to not include obviously, the, the Prophet Muhammad, and the Sahaba, the companions of the Prophet, or even the turbine for that matter.

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It This is strictly an academic exercise where we look at

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using my subjective value judgment, of course,

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10 of the people who have contributed most to my opinion, obviously, to

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in the in that area.

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And what I'm not including in that area is Sub Saharan Africa. And I'll be honest with you, the reason why is because I have very limited knowledge of that area. Likewise, I'm not including China as although obviously Islam spread to China. I'm not including it because once again, my knowledge is pretty much non existent in terms of Chinese culture, academic, academia, etc, on these on these issues. So let's get started. before we actually start listing, my criteria for subjective value judgment will be basically influencing as many distinct fields of study as possible. So let's start the number 10. on my list is Al biruni. barbirolli was a Persian, he was a polymath.

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And he basically specialized in more than one field he specialized in astronomy and geology. He wrote a book called huduma, Saudi oma Saudis law, which was basically like an encyclopedia, it was an encyclopedia of astronomy, of engineering, and so on. And so, he wrote another book called if he, if he masala

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sorry, at the fimasartan gym, which is basically under, you know, understanding astrology and for for those people that sign astrology and astronomy, we're very much interlinked, but it was not astrological as much as it was that book is actually astronomical. The interesting thing about biruni is that he was also a comparative religion as he went to India, he spent time in India, and he wasn't in theologist. Basically, he did a comparative religious study between like Quranic and Islamic precepts, and obviously Hindu precepts. And I think he was probably one of the first 1050 Milady, which is Gregorian calendar.

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So this is a person who has had a profound impact. And the reason why I put him as number 10, is because of the impact he's had on astronomy in particular, I mean, this guy even basically measured the radius of

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the sorry, the circumference of the of the of the earth, and came to about 2% accuracy from current day numbers. So this guy was most certainly someone who was influential in more than one field, he was a comparative religionist he was

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an astronomer, geology, geology expert, and so on. Number nine is Al Kindi, Al Kindi, and we use of your holiness, harp, Al Kindi a sebahagian. d, he died 873 80 and basically he was seen as like the you know, the father of philosophy for the Arabs and he was an Arab one of the

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The only that we're going to mention on this list.

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And the reason why I put him in this is because to be honest, he was even referenced by I mean in terms of things like mathematics. He might not have been as prominent, but in terms of philosophy, he was certainly incredibly influential. He had a massive impact on urban see now on every center.

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His ideas would trickle through to his ideas.

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He was a physician. So he basically done a lot of work in medicine. And actually, he was referenced by Bill Haytham and after that, some contribution to optics as well. So you can imagine this person has put his hand in so many jars, and has actually been influential, almost all of them.

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Talk about influence number eight is Alfa Romeo, Mohammed bin, even most of our dismay, and basically, you might know him already for writing a book, which is very well known. If you don't know it, you'll know about the result of it, which is algebra. The keytab other book that he wrote was a tabula rasa, free sample job.

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One macabre, which is basically a compendious book on calculations by complete by completion and balancing. This is a book that basically he was outlining quadratic expressions, and all these kind of things which we learn in school nowadays. And by the way, these, you'll be surprised as to the effect that algebra has had on the world in terms of engineering, like nowadays, if someone you know someone does engineering University, they have to go through a rigorous like mathematical program where they know their algebra very well, because any kind of engineering you will know will depend on algebraic formulations. So you will, you probably be walking in the street and looking at

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buildings or maybe riding an airplane and not realize that the impact that our economy has had

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on on that is actually massive, because algebra has facilitated the way for people to be able to operate in that way. Number seven is my maladies or most have been my you know, he was a Jew, by he was a Jewish jurist, philosopher, logician and astronomer. But this man is seen as probably the most influential scholar in all of Judaism, after him in this column, the second Moses, he is a polymath in the sense that he actually wrote on different issues. He was a Jewish jurist, he is a philosopher, logician, and even an astronomer, you know, so there's books that he's written in Hebrew, but also mostly he's written in Arabic. So he wrote that as hiring, which is the guide for

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the perplexed, which is book on logic and basically takes the kind of same

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route as like Thomas Aquinas lasallian, those individuals there, where you can have systematic theology proven God's existence and those kinds of things. He was incredibly influential, and probably the most influential Jewish scholar of all times, by purpose number seven, because obviously, he lived and within the Islamic, the Islamic if you like, so his work flourished in the context of Islamic rule.

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Six is the case of not able to hate them, will be known for his book of optics out really and truly, the book of optics was a massive breakthrough in the way we perceived, basically optics. And he ran experiments, which he did in a systematic and scientific way to try and basically understand how optics work, and how the human eye works. And he wrote a lot of things. And what really made him special, in addition to all of these great contributions to optics is actually his contribution to what we would call today as a philosophy of science. Because really, and truly what he did, whilst he was doing his science, he wasn't just thinking, as many unfortunately scientists do now when they

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go to the laboratory, about the systems, but he was thinking about how to refine the systems itself. And this is called the philosophy of science. So he is seen as kind of like an architect for the philosophy of science. He put conditions in place, he saw what would be appropriate, what wouldn't be appropriate, etc.

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But in addition to that, he wrote about astronomy of like, the history of

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these things like history, philosophy, history of

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intellectuals, I wanted to do the same video like this, but for the Western world, because one of the people are definitely putting my top 10 in the Western world will be told me. I told him, he basically wrote a book. And this book that told him he wasn't headedness, he was a Hellenistic thinker. Yeah. So he exists at the same kind of time, in the Greek, ancient Greek time, where Aristotle and those guys also existed, and totally basically had a very

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He had he had a theory on geocentric on the geocentric models where he basically put it was basically it was a working model on how

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he thought basically the sun goes around the earth. And But not only that, but all of the

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all of the planets go around the earth and he had these kind of eccentric circles, etc. This was part of ptolemies model, but told him his model, his geocentric model persisted for, basically, I would say, a millennia, more than a millennium after his death. So everyone was going along with this geocentric model, all the astronomers were using ptolemies work. That's why he would be actually considered even despite the fact that we would consider him Ron now, because of the heliocentric model. He'd be considered one of the greatest thinkers of Western history. Totally me. However, now if the Haytham wrote a book, which is translated into English as doubts concerning

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Ptolemy, and this is a lesson for us, because when basically people in the Islamic golden age and this would be considered the Islamic Golden Age, but when they started to doubt, when they started to doubt, and they started to challenge prevailing Greek ideas, that is when they made the best and most impressive, innovative contributions in all fields. And so listen to us because nowadays, we it's not even about it's not even astronomical. Now we have ideological things, which we're afraid to challenge things like second wave feminism, or things like liberalism, or things like communism in a previous time, where those ideas are so pervasive, because they've been propounded by a

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superpower military superpower that were afraid to challenge them. But if you think about Haytham here, he's challenging not only Greek ideas with philosophical perspective, but he's challenging Ptolemy ptolemies astronomy, which was seen as kind of like an immutable philosophy or an incorrigible philosophy, astronomy, for over four centuries, people really had it entrenched in their astronomical mind, the cosmological image of the universe was a geocentric one. And they use Ptolemy as the main academic,

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you know, reasoning for that, and his model of eccentric

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revolutions of the planets and he had a whole theory. So the fact that he did that was big. And

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that's why I put it was number six. Number five is faculty dean of Razi. Now, we're moving away from kind of the scientific aspects now to more theological aspects and philosophical aspects because Fakhruddin Razi was not known as an astronomer, or, you know, a medical expert, but he was known as one of the main exigencies of Islam, actually, his his Tafseer you know, a Tafseer Kabir or the great commentary is one of the biggest and most profound Tafseer of all times or basically exegetical works. And in that Tafseer, you realize a lot of the emphasis is on language, which is why it's very, very fair for us to actually consider him a linguist, in addition as being an extra

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j, even though he didn't, as far as I know, right. And he, you know, he didn't specialize in language in any formal sense, in the same way someone like maybe a civil way, or I don't know, as I'm actually would have, but in that same vein, though, we have to look at his Tafseer is very much linguistics. So I would consider him a linguist, an exigent logician because he wrote kuttabul, multiple Kabir, which is basically the major book on logic, but he also wrote many works in philosophy and philosophical kind of theology, if you like as well. Or you could even argues he would refer to as that philosophy of religion. So these things here. First, Rodin of Razi, was one

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of the most profound and influential scholars to the extent whereby actually his kind of credo ideas are still being used, and propounded nowadays in battery in ashari circles much to the credit of Razi. So most of the kind of credo ammunition use nowadays, in a political sense goes back to the Dean of Ross and talking about polemicist ism. Number four is even taymiyah himself.

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Now, once again, is not is not really a he's not known for his astronomy. He's not known for his medical knowledge, but He is known for his jurisprudential knowledge, his philosophical knowledge, his logical knowledge and his comparative religion knowledge. So I would consider him Yes, a comparative religious because of his cadabra job Asahi, which was one of the most comprehensive and impressive works, which is the kind of the correct reply to the Christians. It's a polemical work against the Christian presuppositions, but it is one which shows a high level especially for that type of research. Done.

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You know, in terms of Christianity, he's different to add value biruni because al biruni is also comparative religious, but he by biruni, makes it very clear when he's talking about his in his in theology in theological studies that actually

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I'm not here to try and, you know, disprove the Hindu ideas. He's I'm trying to just do an objective review. Whereas, obviously when Tamia comes from a more polemical stance, but both are academic, both will find academic vantage points. I mean, you can do either and still be a comparative religionist.

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He died in 1328. And basically the interesting thing about potamia is about 700 years after the Prophet Mohammed and 700 years before us, so he's slap bang in the middle of the historical timeline in terms of where he stands. Another thing about him is that his the production of scholars that he's produced is something quite amazing. So he's produced scholars like him, they'll claim with Josie casita, Gabby and Missy, you know, it will move and the list goes on and on. So his influence you know, it stretches a long time into our present day and why this is why I put him as number four because he's still influential just like most of you, but you could say not only demographically

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influential scale because Muslim Sudanese and particular Salafism because he's really influenced Salafism are more numerous a number than than the Jewish community, the entire Jewish community, in fact, so his, his contribution is massive. And he's still being referenced today in almost all theological and academic. So if you don't know who haven't told me, I was, you should know because he is most certainly

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one of the most influential men in history actually, to be honest. So for me as number four that number three is even rushed. Now, it was a rush to be arguing, okay, how can you put it in the rush before been Tamia? Maybe, you know, hardcore self is watching.

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As a higher level than they've been telling me I look, this shows you this and it shows So listen, be quiet, please, brother. Because right now, I'm not making a credo point. I've told you this in the beginning, I put a Jew in this top 10. And I'm not making a point of credo not trying to

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what do you call it?

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succumb to my denominational urges right now I'm just, you know, making a point of objective reality. And the last is

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the reason why I put him as number three is because of his contribution to so many different fields, including philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy,

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mathematics, which is Islamic jurisprudence, and so on and so forth. He wrote the death of Mr. Head,

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which is something by the way that is studied in Medina University, which is a conservative University.

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So quote, unquote, conservative, but but as Mr. hedges is well known, but he also wrote a cool yet fifth clip, which is basically the comprehensive knowledge of medicine. So for him to do both of those things there. That's really for me, it's astonishing that he can actually have contributions like this. Unfortunately, a lot of his astronomical stuff hasn't survived. But we know that he was part of a movement that was casting aspersions on the old thalamic model of Joseph TriCity. And though he's like, I haven't seen many of his material title, his manuscripts, maybe they haven't been mis catalogued or something. But in astronomy, he's been referenced by all the other

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astronomers, you know, at his time in the Golden Age. And he's seen as in that movement, to push back against the Ptolemaic theories, despite the fact that he was a great commentator for Aristotle. In fact, he was referred to as the commentator, you know, for Aristotle, so he was he wrote to have to have, obviously as a response to Allah has le Sampson philosopher. He didn't disagree with alien every point. But that's another massive philosophical work which shows you the depth of his knowledge in that field. So for those reasons, because he was one of the few people that could be good in science and good and social science. I had to put him as number three, because this is about

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polymath. How much of a polymath you are okay, now we're going number two l as early as Mohammed,

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Mohammed Mohammed Mohammed in to seal as early as

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the year he died is going to be memorable for all because I see a 111

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law by Sara one more time. Yes, yeah. 1111. And he was one of the most prominent and influential, I mean, you can he is one of the most influential people of all time. Yeah.

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Trust me.

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He was a polymath. He wrote on philosophy, theology, jurisprudence, and he knew about mathematics. Now, once again, if he did,

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the reason why I haven't put it was number one is because he didn't right on on the astronomical sciences, on

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on physics, etc, was the number number one person that I'm going to mention they do those things.

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He wrote down with a philosopher, which is probably one of the most well known works that he wrote, which is the incoherence of the philosophers but he also wrote something like the most useful and most useful

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Facebook and his teacher arduini he wrote another book

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on a soul fake which basically Mustafa is, I would say is a refined version of and it will satisfy the holy book, this book that he wrote

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has such a lasting impact they even went into hambley circles obviously, someone like him know Kodama Alma DC,

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he wrote wrote this novel now wrote another, which is another holy textbook is very much connected to animals. And if you look at the first manuscripts that have no demo in terms of voltage, another, it has an epistemological

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preamble if you like. So, in the beginning of almost as far as le riserva is the epistemology, which is basically a philosophical sub branch, it no Kodama in his because basically a lot of another is I would say is an abbreviation or some kind of condensation of condensed version sorry, of the masasa. He also left that in but then there was a bit of a kind of backlash from the humble circles. Having said that, though, he has such an impact on

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basically also because a soul effect is very much connected to logical precepts.

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And so, Elva zelly l has le has has an impact on that has an impact on Islamic philosophy from that kind of reply to the philosophers book that he wrote. And obviously, he was a chef I and jurisprudence, he was a master of that as well. He was also Persian origin, which shows us that this list is dominated by the Persians, talking about someone who's of Persian origin, as someone who's had a massive impact. Unfortunately, not someone who has a med tech fear of

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I'm not saying that's unfortunate in the sense that it's around tech fear. It's just unfortunate I he fell into these mistakes of tech fear, even Siena,

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who died 1047. He's number one, in my opinion. And the reason why he's clearly in the back your head and shoulders, in terms of being a polymath above everybody else, is because,

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frankly, he was able to contribute more to all of the other sub branches that anyone else had been able to do that. Seriously, it's been able to contribute to things like astronomy,

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and philosophy to a high high level, obviously, my book that I wrote

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Kalam cosmological arguments, which is available online, I spend a lot of time on it. And the reason why my opinion is because everyone else learned from him even as Allah who attacked him, I think he basically is very clear that he agrees with him on so many things.

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Even if the Tamia who attacks him, you'll, you'll see that, you know, he agrees with them what they do, why even taymiyah does and what Allah has Allah does

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is they try basically and create a to to sieve even seen as arguments for the existence of God, for example, into kind of like a chapter of Orthodoxy. Obviously, it became It was like Hamble, I would call Salafi today, like, whereas it was more, it was ashari. Yeah, so both of those had slightly different schools of credo thought. But both of them did the same kind of thing for their respective schools of thought, which is to sift through the ideas of Ebensee now, and to clean up basically, according to the principles of the particular school of thought that they came from, and then to churn out what would be the most, you know, the strongest arguments and most critically compatible

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arguments, but his effect on on Islamic or on Kalam basically, which is the idea of argument from first principles and so on, has been my father the most impactful. So

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he wrote a book called ashy fat which I mean, his his work on medicine. Yeah, is incredible for the time and his work on medicine was translated and useful for the next five 600 700 years. It shows you this, the level of this guy's

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ability to specialize in more one field was something which was you won't find in every generation. Now the question is, what do we learn from all of this? What we learn is that being a polymath is not an easy enterprise, and the importance of specialism To be honest, from what we've seen from the list I've provided most most polymers, generally, and obviously, this is something that is specific to this list. But generally, most polymers are specialized in very similar fields, like for example, theology, or philosophy, or geometry, astronomy and mathematics, where skills and knowledge intersect and are transferable. There was actually interesting beef was you say? Yes, interesting.

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Beef between ebenstein al al biruni.

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And basically, this beef was I'm gonna read this out actually is really interesting.

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in one of his books. Yeah.

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He was like,

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he's not really gifted in philosophical matters and people, and they ruined it because he tried to challenge him and seen him in philosophy. And he made a mockery of himself. Realize, okay, this guy's got his specialism and this guy's got his specialty. They don't realize that himself

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because it barely realized himself. He says something really interesting which I will not read out he goes, and this actually translate

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is actually beautiful thing here. He goes. For the one who attempts encompassing all things we'll lose the whole

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you know what I mean? And this is very important because the one he just barely a polymath himself. He's realized that he's trying to get involved in philosophy even seen it was seen as like the top guy. The one who attempts encompassing all things will lose out. Just like when Floyd Mayweather had a match with Conor McGregor was just like embarrassing for for Conor McGregor because the levels are different. If you want to specialize in one thing, it's like going to the Olympics and getting a gold medal in two sports.

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I barely would say for the one who champs encompassing orphans will lose the whole lesson here in terms of academic lesson is simply this. If you want to be good at something be good at one or two things which are closely related. And that's it, man. Don't go everywhere because you end up doing nothing. If you try and do everything, you'll end up doing nothing. I hope this was very edifying Salaam Alaikum